Instruction will not solve the performance problem when…

In a previous post, Training is Not Always the Solution, we asserted training is rarely the fix, at least by itself, for a performance problem. In this post we put forth three questions, derived from Mager’s (2012) work, to ask during analysis that will definitely rule out instruction or training as the solution for deficits in performance. If the answer to all three questions is Yes then instruction or training is not the solution.

  1. Do your people know what is expected of them?
  2. Do your people have the tools and resources to perform?
  3. Do your people know how to do what is expected of them?

When people know what to do, how to do it, and have the tools they need to perform, instruction is not the solution for a performance problem.

Mager, R.F. (2012). Making instruction work. Carefree, AZ: Mager Associates, Inc.

The Right Job Aid for the Task

A Job Aid is anything that helps a performer, learner, or worker perform a task. Job aids may be used in lieu of training when a task is complex, there is not a need to store the information in memory, the completion of the task is not time critical, and the use of the job aid does not impede performance. There are several types of job aids, as identified by Allison Rossett and Jeannette Gautier-Downes in their book A Handbook of Job Aids, — steps, checklists, flowcharts, decision tables. The appropriateness of a job aid is determined by the task to be performed. For example, when a task should be completed in a particular order, a steps job aid is most appropriate. When order does not matter but it is important that all steps are performed, a checklist would be appropriate. If a task involves a series of yes/no decisions, a flowchart would be the go-to job aid. Finally, for tasks that involve conditionals, for example if something then do this, a decision table job aid would be the way to go.

Job aids may be combined. For example a task might involve steps that are to be performed in order and the steps include items that must be completed in no particular order. In that case, a combination steps-checklist job aid would be appropriate.

We can’t afford training

Employees must receive the skills and knowledge necessary to perform their job. Failure to invest in training employees to perform work tasks leads to poor performance, low morale, and a disengaged unmotivated workforce. An investment in training and employee development is an investment in the long-term growth of your business or organization. A business or organization might think, “We can’t afford training.” We say, “You can’t afford not to have training and other employee job peformance support and development.” Designate a portion of your operating budget to training, job performance support, and employee development and don’t dip into the account for other things. Make training and employee performance support a priority; your employees will excel, your customers will be satisfied, and your organization or business will thrive.

Training is not always the solution

When job performance problems arise or organizations fail to meet goals, training is oftentimes put forth as the remedy. Rarely is training alone the solution for performance problems. In fact, peformance problems could be the result of lack of skills or knowledge– for which training would be appropriate–, environmental factors, motivation or incentives, or employee assignment or selection. First, a thorough performance analysis should be conducted to determine the cause(s) of a performance problem. Then, appropriate interventions should be designed, developed,  and implemented that address the cause(s) of the performance problem.

Instructional Designer as Investigator

Problems arise–learners do not meet learning objectives, performance goals are not attained, learners become frustrated–when instruction is created without a thorough analysis. When this happens the instructional designer must put on his or her investigator hat and locate the holes in the content and/or instructional materials. Instructional and training programs that begin with a thorough analysis produce efficient, effective, extraordinary results the first time around.